SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 21 May 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 11:1-10
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#13)
Sermon video: Click this LINK to watch
I. Nine plagues
II. Yet one plague more
III. About midnight
We’ve so far considered the first nine incredible plagues which have devastated Pharaoh and Egyptians again and again. Those plagues altogether display God’s sovereignty over man and nature; and they tell us that God is not like the gods of Egypt; they tell us that God alone is the true and living God while the man-made gods of Egypt are lifeless idols. Each of the nine plagues proves this as an undeniable fact.
Then, we read ch. 11, and we sense that, at this time, something’s different; something’s incomparably heavier than those happened earlier; something deeply perilous and alarming is coming. The whole chapter is a warning of the coming danger. With this new one announced, we’re going to see the sum of all calamities fell on Egypt.
Despite its formidable prospect, however, this announcement of the approaching plague is loaded with God’s mercy toward all sinners. God intends with this dire warning sinners to repent and come to Him and find a refuge and haven. This warning is like the deepest darkness at night that ensures the imminent bright morning sunshine.
So, let’s pay attention to what God has for us in this warning of the last plague.
I. NINE PLAGUES
We start from remembering the implications of the previous nine plagues. On the one hand, they point out to us God’s sovereign judgment upon the rebellious Pharaoh and his people. They altogether rejected God’s command, thus, receive what they deserve.
On the other hand, through those plagues, God calls His elect out from their slavery to sin. What I mean is that God breaks the strongholds built in His elect’s heart and life one by one. Let me remind you of how God has done it in Egypt. When the first plague turned the water of Nile into blood, Egyptians sought neither God nor His mercy. Pharaoh didn’t take even that to heart. As more plagues devastate their life, some of Pharaoh’s officials start realising the existence and power of the God of Israel. Although Pharaoh hardens his heart every time, he starts calling the name of God every time he begs Moses for the cease of plague. At last, when the plague of severe hail is announced in ch. 9, Moses warns them all, saying this: “Behold, about this time tomorrow [God] will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.” What have you read as a result of this announcement? Some of Pharaoh’s servants receive the warning and hurriedly bring their men and livestock into safe shelters, and their men and beasts are spared from that severe plague! As I said in last Sunday’s sermon, I believe many, if not all, of these people who have brought their men and animals into safe shelters must’ve joined the Israelites later in the exodus.
In this way, God breaks each stronghold of sin in His elect’s heart and life, and brings them into His bosom. The first nine plagues are God’s work of breaking the hard hearts of those He chose to save. So, although we call them ‘plagues,’ for those people whom God embraces in His divine heart, they are not calamities but God’s act of salvation, God’s rescue mission. They’re plagues and calamities and disasters for only those who refuse God and His invitation to salvation.
II. YET ONE PLAGUE MORE
What comes next in ch. 11 is God’s announcement of ‘yet one plague more upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt.’ Yet one plague more. Any plague of the previous nine was so severe that that would’ve thoroughly destroyed the entire nation of Egypt. But the Egyptians were squashed nine times more and each plague was severer than the previous one! By the end of the nineth plague, everything of Egypt must’ve gone and no hope is left.
Last week, I saw in the newspaper two aerial photos of the one same Ukrainian city. One photo was taken before the war and the other was taken recently. With the first photo, I saw what a normal city would look like with green vegetation and buildings with different coloured roofs. But the other one looked completely different – it looked like a photo of an archaeological site with only some structural remains.
I believe that would’ve been the condition of Egypt at the end of the nineth plague. But we hear that God is going to bring yet one more plague upon Pharaoh and Egypt. And this warning is, as I mentioned earlier, much heavier and incomparably alarming. It sounds perilous and deadly. I believe the Egyptians who have passed nine plagues by the end of ch. 10 and at the beginning of ch. 11 are mentally deranged as much as physically devastated. I guess, when they hear of this announcement of yet one more plague, their minds most likely have become numb, passing the stage of going crazy! They’ve had enough troubles. They must’ve realised by now what it means to have one more plague. Yet, this plague announced sounds harsher than all of the previous ones.
Surprisingly, however, we don’t hear any Egyptian making his/her response to this warning. Have their minds really gone numb? Unable to analyse the situation? If I were there, I would’ve surely cried out and said, ‘No more, please! I give up! I’ll repent of my sins and worship You, God, as that’s what you want from me!’ But we hear nothing of that kind in ch. 11!
Surprisingly again, just a few of this generation have responded to the same warning while the rest are not interested in God’s warning of ‘yet one more plague,’ or in another word, the coming final calamity. People of this generation have seen and experienced various troubles – such as wars, pandemics, natural disasters, global economic collapses, and so on, in addition to personal and individual health issues, social and political insecurities, relational breakdowns, failures, and so on and on and on, just to list a few. Each person has faced various difficulties and strife, but not many have learned a lesson. Not many pay attention to God’s announcement of ‘yet one more plague’ or ‘the last judgment’ which will be far more severe than all of the earlier troubles because this one announced and coming will be the end of all things.
What is God’s warning? It’s the warning of God’s wrath and condemnation for those disbelieving in Jesus Christ. Listen to the announcement of it given in Jn. 3:18, “Whoever believes in [Jesus Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” More specifically, this condemnation announced is death, and Jn. 3:36 explains it, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Jesus explains this condemnation of death further in Mt. 13 while describing His kingdom in a parable of weeds. He says this, “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
What makes this warning different from all other warnings is that the judgment announced will be the last for everyone. And there will be no more second chance or opportunity for correcting what has gone wrong. Like the tenth plague announced to the ears of Pharaoh and Egyptians left no chance for the firstborns and their parents in Egypt, this warning of what will happen at the end of the age is terminal, irrevocable, for ever!
But, this will be completely opposite to the ears and hearts of everyone who has repented and believes in Jesus Christ, thus, worships God, calling Him Father and Jesus Lord. For them, for us, this warning is a sound of joy and blessing. That’s because this warning is the last and final hurdle for Christians to pass over. That will be the end of all our troubles. The Lord’s final blow to sin and our enemy Satan is impending, and when it happens, we’ll surely be welcomed into Jesus’ eternal kingdom!
III. ABOUT MIDNIGHT
One final point we must hear from this passage is the time set for the final plague, the time set for the final judgment. We hear Moses in v. 4 saying that it will be ‘about midnight.’
That is the deepest, darkest time of night; it is an ‘unexpected time.’ This unexpected time is when people are most likely asleep, thus, the time of greatest vulnerability and defencelessness. Jesus describes this moment in Mt. 24 which we’ve read earlier this morning, especially in vs. 36-39. Listen to Him, the Lord Jesus, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking and marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man,” in other words, the day of the final judgment.
What does this mean? It means – simply put – that the judgment day announced and warned against will be the moment when our day becomes ‘tomorrow.’ I mean, you and I, everyone lives ‘today’ and no one lives in ‘tomorrow.’ We think and believe that we have tomorrow, but that’s not true – we can’t be sure of tomorrow, whether it’d come or not. We only live today, in this sense.
Yesterday, I awoke and read two obituaries. One was of Timothy Keller and another of Harry Reeder. Both of them were Presbyterian ministers and scholars in America who were in their 70s but had been very active in their ministries. Both were well-known to all Reformed Christians around the world. Many ministers of our own denomination in Australia have met Harry Reeder because he had several church-revitalisation seminars in Australia many years ago. Rev. Dr. Reeder died in a car accident and Rev Dr. Keller of cancer. I don’t think anyone had dreamed of hearing of news of unexpected departures of these brothers in the Lord.
The point I want to make is that no one lives in ‘tomorrow.’ We all live only in ‘today.’ Today is the only time available for us, and when ‘tomorrow’ comes, when we reach tomorrow, that’s the time for facing the Lord Jesus who is the Judge of the world. This is the time announced by Moses as ‘about midnight.’
So, the Lord Jesus says in the verses we’ve read earlier from Mt. 24 in these words for all who believe in Him, “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. … you … must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” But for anyone who hasn’t come to Jesus, His message is this, “as long as it is called ‘today’ … none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. … Today, if you hear [God’s] voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
So, we have this conclusion. For all who believe – that is, you and me – being ready to face what is announced is a great joy rather than a burden or threat. That is because our toil on earth, in this sinful flesh, will end on that day! That day of the end of all our troubles is the day we’ve been longing to see, isn’t it? For everyone who believes in Jesus, this joy begins from the moment of conversion, and grows naturally as he/she trusts Jesus more and more every day.
I know some Christians would wonder whether their joy would grow to meet and satisfy the requirement of the last day. I know because I was afraid of my own shortcoming too. But never doubt it because it is God, not you, who grows that joy in you, and He will surely make it perfect in His grace!
But for anyone and everyone who has not yet professed faith in Jesus, this is a dire warning. Yet, remember this that, if you hear this warning and consider this warning serious in your heart, then, this is no longer a threat to you, this is no longer a warning to you, but God’s gracious invitation to life eternal! So, hear it and take it to your heart, and BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, and bow to Him in confession of your sins. The act of confessing your sinfulness is not so difficult – it is your recognition and realisation of your inability to save yourself because of your sins, and of your desperate need of Jesus who can forgive your sins and wash them clean with the blood He shed on the cross on your behalf. Then, thank Him for being your Saviour, and worship Him as your Lord! It’s that simple.
Yet, this simple act of faith will save you today, before your time reaches tomorrow. And you’ll be safe from the imminent judgment, the end of all things! ***